As a parent, you know full well that there’s almost nothing more important to your health, sanity, and overall wellbeing than sleep. And that’s why it’s a good idea to instil great sleep habits in your children while they’re young. Because when your child is getting enough sleep, everyone will benefit.
This post covers 7 ways to help your children develop healthy sleep habits that will help them now and well into their adulthood.
How to develop healthy sleep habits in children
1. Create a routine and stick to it
Kids thrive on routine. They should know exactly what time to go to bed and what time to start winding down for bedtime. You can even set timers and give them recommended activities to do in the hour before bed.
There are, however, some definite dos and don’ts when it comes to winding down.
In the beginning, you’ll probably need to be very involved in the process. But as they get into the swing of their new routine, you’ll be able to back off more and more.
2. Set an appropriate bedtime
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep your child needs will depend on his or her age.
- Three to five: About 10 to 12 hours of sleep daily
- Six to thirteen: Typically, between nine and twelve hours nightly
You can play around with the ranges to find an appropriate amount of sleep for your children, but make sure you’re setting bedtime so they can get at least the minimum for their age range.
3. Avoid sugar about an hour before bed
Sugar provides an energy surge that your kids don’t need before bed. So be sure to monitor their food intake in the hour before bedtime.
A sugar rush might keep your kids from getting to sleep on time, which will reduce the number of hours they’ll sleep in total. And that’s a recipe for a foggy next day.
4. Shut off electronics about an hour before bed
At least one study has shown that the blue light emitted from televisions, smartphones, and other electronic devices may keep us alert, which may mean it’ll take longer to fall asleep after you turn them off.
Try to monitor your kid’s usage and shut down the devices about an hour before bed. Reading is a great activity that can help them relax.
5. Avoid daytime naps (depending on age)
Up until about the age of four, your child may still need to take naps. Above the age of four, it’s probably not a great idea.
If your child is napping and getting to bed late, it’s definitely time to cut out the nap. It may be a difficult transition, but it will get easier.
6. Keep your child active during the day
An active child is a tired child, so if you want to avoid (or reduce) the bedtime struggle, do what you can to ensure your child is physically active during the day. It could mean joining a team sport or just playing outside with friends.
7. Limit food to light snacks before bedtime
If your child is digesting a heavy meal at bedtime, he or she may have trouble sleeping. It’s also not recommended to send kids to bed hungry. They may have trouble sleeping or wake up during the night.
A good solution is to plan healthy sugarless snacks in the hour before bedtime.
Getting your kids to sleep can often be a challenge and it takes time to work out a family routine that suits everyone.
There are no firm milestones, either since each child is an individual with their own sleep requirements. Caitlin has always been an early riser, whereas Ieuan takes after me and has to be dragged from his pit!
So, let’s hear from you. What are your best tips for helping your children develop healthy sleep habits? Do you have a good bedtime routine that’s working well for your family?